Back Again

It’s a dangerous business, walking out one’s front door.
~ Gandalf, The Hobbit


We’re back from our adventuring on the Tallahassee frontier. We carried our lists, sat around the campfire, and made some team plans while we were there. Some plans are big; some others are small. Of course, many of these plans have you and your students in mind. Some blueprints are still being drafted, and others are on the assembly line.


We’d been reviewing some previous enhancements when we thought we could go one better here. Could we improve upon the link to a student’s grade report while viewing an email? Then recently this comment was sent our way via email …

I love the ability to click to see a student’s gradebook when I receive an email. Can it stay there even after I hit reply? Sometimes, I have to reference the gradebook again after I hit reply.

This played right into our thinking. What could we do? Could we go for the gusto and work some magic across course shells and email as well?

When you view a student email, you have had this icon to open the student grade report.



When you clicked REPLY, the icon link to the student grade report disappeared.

Things have now changed to address the above suggestion. First of all, there is a new UNIVERSAL icon for the Student Grade Report. Whenever you see this checkmark icon (below), it will be a link to that particular student’s Grade Report.


Going another step on the road to efficiency, the developers have added that icon to your email reply area in order to provide access to that same report. Obviously, you can only be replying to a single student via email in order to view the grade report. This link will only appear on replies.


This will work for teachers as well as TA’s. Using the embedded email metadata within Educator, the grade report relevant to you in your current role will be the one displayed.

NOTE: This will be the grade report for the class FROM WHICH THE STUDENT WROTE THE EMAIL.


On another note …

We have some help for the Help Desk or anyone wanting to help. There have been some recent tickets from parents who were concerned that Johnny’s work was “disappearing” from everywhere. Have you ever heard this one before? What happens to all that disappearing work? Detective Educator is on the way!


Whenever a student deletes a file, that will be noted in the Usage Log. This might save some time at the Help Desk or when engaged in conversations about apparent magic acts.

It’s time now for us to get back to work. Keep talking. Thanks for joining us.


We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.
~ Jeff Bezos

Wagons Tally-Ho!

It is not easy to be a pioneer – but oh, it is fascinating!
I would not trade one moment, even the worst moment, for all the riches in the world.

~ Elizabeth Blackwell


The wagons are rolling into Tallahassee once again this week! We are gathering around the Ucompass fire for our annual company gathering. Much of our development energy at this time turns to meeting, discussing our trajectory, planning development, and singing around the campfire. It does us all a great deal of good. If history repeats itself, it’s also good for you!

We are by no means ignoring you over these next couple of weeks. Our time spent here might be briefer than most. We still need/want your comments and feedback. We thought it might be helpful to share some How-To tips that have come up more than once in our dialogues or comments from you. This past week it seems to be mostly about finding students.


To find students that have not submitted an assessment you have to use the “Find learners based on performance” at the bottom of the FIND STUDENTS page.


First select (1) the course you wish to search and then (2) click the “Go!” button.

Next set the query to ‘scored less than or equal to’ and enter a ‘1’ for score.

find_2Now, select the assessment (3) for which you are looking, and be sure to check (4) the Include non-submitted assessments in results check box and then click Search (5).

The results page will then show you all students that have “Not Submitted” and any Exempted students.


From the results page here, you can further filter the results (above) or select students for an action.



Can you think of any reason why anyone MIGHT be interested in a senior’s grade in the month or two before graduation? Have you ever noticed how a student’s interest in his/her current grade seems to grow dramatically in the 60 days prior to the end of the school year?

There have been several requests for instructions on how to expediently find a senior’s grade report. Start with FIND STUDENTS again.

Just add the correct numeric grade level, and you’re done!


By the way … the student grade reports will now link on mobile devices. Stay in touch. We’ll be back!

The way of the pioneer is always rough.
~ Harvey S. Firestone


Either I will find a way, or I will make one.
~ Philip Sidney


Sometimes there is just so much information in front of us that we cannot find that one small piece which we seek. Do you know what we mean? Is Waldo even there? Wouldn’t it be helpful if we could zero in on the area where Waldo is located? Of course it would!

Someone first wrote …

As I am sending out “No Work” emails, I thought of another great feature request.
Under the “Find Students” option, could we have a function for date work submitted?
That way we could email students in bulk that have not submitted work in a set amount of time.

Would that help you? Could we gain some increased efficiencies? Would you have more time to do other things that either benefit your students or just make you smile more?  The whole idea made sense to our development team. Then someone else suggested …

How about one more that might be a hidden gem. For our BLC teachers that have students in different schools … can they “Find Student” based on school?

OK. Are you ready for the change?


Two new sort fields have been added for your use: the student’s SCHOOL and the LAST SUBMITTED DATE. This should help expedite some communications. Let us know your thoughts.

There are some new tooltips associated with this enhancement. Hovering over a question mark icon will display the associated tooltip …


Having completed your SEARCH, you will still be able to checkbox those students with whom you wish to interact, and then you can execute the bulk ACTION of your choice … email, group, or force. Please keep sharing your ideas and comments.

Don’t find fault, find a remedy.
~ Henry Ford

Reset or Resubmit

Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.
~ C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

RESET Notice

The icons introduced earlier this month were met with such a fine reception. Thank you. We’ve decided to use them some more! It was several weeks ago when one of you wrote:

With the new change of limited resubmissions, is there anyway we can have the little circle arrow change when they have reached the limit?

You should be very familiar with both starring members in our icon play this week. You know what they mean just by looking …


They’ve taken on expanded meaning with this week’s update. The developers have taken your suggestion above and added some help for you when hovering over the icons. This applies to EXAM RESETS and any ASSIGNMENT RESUBMISSIONS. These are the basic possible states with any exam or assignment:

  1. The student cannot resubmit or reset.
  2. The student can reset the exam one more time.
  3. The student can reset or resubmit a variable number of times.
  4. The student can resubmit or reset an unlimited number of times.

When hovering over either of these icons in the Student Grade Report, a tooltip will let you know the status for student resets or resubmissions. Some different possibilities are shown here:


If there is no icon, then the assessment never allowed for any resubmission or reset at all.

Hiding Passwords

Here is an excerpt from an email regarding another recent improvement …

Recently there was a change made to expose the Global Password in a student gradebook, when a teacher is viewing them. The global password data element is also present when a teacher clicks on the “copy” button from a student gradebook as well.
The data element being present when copy is clicked is a bit problematic as the teachers use the copy button to create IPPs in Excel. Since the change, when an IPP is created, teachers must manually remove the global password.
Is there any chance that can be removed from the data captured when the copy button is pressed?

More work? We don’t want to give you more work! As you know, we appreciate knowing when enhancements in one arena MIGHT cause problems in another. Without feedback like yours above, we’d never know. So, thank you!
And just to prove our gratitude, The Global/Proctor Password show/hide button remains for your convenience. From this point on … when you copy/paste or export the table, the TITLE will remain, but the passwords will not show. They will look like this:


Remember to hide the ones you’ve shown, and all should be well again. As always, please keep us posted.



We have scheduled a planned outage this Sunday (March 29) morning from 1am to 4am. We will be making infrastructure improvements that require a shutdown. So, if you or your students enjoy working in those wee hours, please make other arrangements. We apologize for any inconvenience, but it was the slowest time we could find.

Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
~ Spock, The Wrath of Khan (1982)



We told you that we listen! And now we show you that we act!
Based on your responses and suggestions this morning, some changes have already been rolled out. This post represents the most recent information.


The font for student submissions has been changed. It’s not only different; it’s slightly larger. The background color for ALL student submissions within Educator (essays, assignments, etc.) is a pale yellow. If you see any other color please let us know with a screenshot:



REMOVE Comments

The REMOVE COMMENT button color has been changed to a less vicious gray color. We have also added a confirmation dialogue. Whenever you choose to remove a student comment, you will need to OK the action in the next window.



There were some rightful concerns about displaying passwords in the student grade report. Some of you like using screenshots, and this would have impeded your ability to do so. Clicking the lock icon will now display and hide passwords in the roster.


Enjoy your weekend, and thank you for the feedback. Keep us on our toes!


It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.
~ Arthur Conan Doyle


We spent some time this week juggling your ideas. There were big ones and small ones. We’re still going through your thoughts and comments, so please keep sharing them for each other and us. Meanwhile, your words …

Exam Passwords

Hello! I was wondering if, when looking at a student’s gradebook, it would be possible to put the exam password for that student in the “actions” box or somewhere more accessible than going through the several steps of opening the exam tab and searching for the student’s password individually. Thank you for always considering our ideas!

passwordsYes, we certainly do consider EVERY idea that crosses our desktops. We just cannot possibly act on every single one right away. You know that, and we know you don’t expect us to do so. That doesn’t mean that we ignore any words you take the time to write here, on our Facebook page, or via email. No idea or comment goes unnoticed.

Some take longer to ponder than others. Some might even require dialogue with your leadership. Some just take more time than others for us to process. Every idea is worth our time. Many of your ideas eventually do become a reality for everyone. Take the one above as an example …

It is now simpler for you to reach a student’s exam password!

On the student’s grade report the exams will show the password assigned to the student. This will apply whether via Global Password or Proctored Password. We hope this one idea helps many of you. Please let us know.

Font Readability

Sometimes we just aren’t sure how best to handle a request. This was another recent comment on our Facebook page:

Any way we can get a few more font options? Courses where spelling is an issue could use a way to easily distinguish tricky letters (example: can you tell that these are 2 different letters: l / I?)

Hmmm … we do not have rich text capabilities at this time. This doesn’t mean we are not working on it; it only means that there are some roads and bridges yet to be built. In the meantime we are working to approach a better solution. The letters that were specifically brought into question were the uppercase “I” (I) and the lowercase “L” (l). When a student submits writing contained within an assessment, the default font has now been changed.



This will apply only to student content such as essay submissions on exams or comments on assignments. Look at the word Illinois in the examples above. Keep us posted on this. Your feedback has always been helpful.

Icon Real Estate

Finally, these thoughtful comments were made on a recent blog entry:

Can students have a quick access link to their gradebook? I would rather them access their assignments via the gradebook than the assessments because then they are forced to see what assignments need to be revised and resubmitted.

This was followed by:

I second this. Newer students often don’t know where to go to resubmit assignments.

And then the use case was emphasized:

Yes, please add the Gradebook. When parents talk to me, one of their most frequently asked question is where can they find the Gradebook?

These were all good points. After reading these comments and engaging in some conversations, we had to consider the precious value of our toolbar real estate. Where do we stop adding icons? We do not want to drown students in icons. Then we thought about the problem …

Students (and parents) might actually have a hard time seeing the Gradebook link:


What could we do about this without adding a new icon to the student toolbar? What could be done to make the Gradebook link easier to find? We juggled many possible solutions and finally just added some space and a separator line to the student’s menu:


With some guidance from you and a little reading on their part, we hope your students will have an easier time finding their gradebook. We know it’s small; we know it’s not a new icon. It does save our/their/your precious real estate. Let’s see how well it works.

I’m a strong believer that you practice like you play, little things make big things happen.
~ Tony Dorsett

Behind the Scenes

What you don’t see backstage is what really controls the show.
~ Sarah Sutton

It’s true! If you have ever been involved in amateur (or professional) theater, you know about the powerful backstage chemistry running through all members of the cast and crew. It’s that behind-the-scenes magic that indeed controls the show. According to the dictionary, that prepositional phrase means out of public view. Happenings taking place behind the scenes generally receive no credit or fame. These are hidden away like backstage chemistry …

credit due to distractify

credit due to distractify

Why do our developers do what they do backstage? You won’t see it; you will likely miss it, but it’s there. There were a host of improvements made in the backend this week. Little by little, these hidden improvements will mount up and reduce the load on servers and bandwidth.


Reduced load means incrementally improved performance. Eventually, this will mean greater appreciation and satisfaction for you and your students. This is why your Educator developers do what they do … behind the scenes.

There is one backend enhancement made this week that actually has a face you can see! While this might best impact curriculum writers, it could be an interesting tool for instructors and team leaders as well. We have added ADVANCED TRACKING exports for exam questions. As so many ideas come from you …

My Professional Learning Community Group is using advanced question statistics for our project. It would be super-helpful if the statistics were exportable to Excel. The questions themselves wouldn’t need to be included. We could look at those after we narrowed our focus using the spreadsheet.

For now this applies ONLY to individual instructor shells. It also only applies to ACTIVE students. NOTE: The advanced tracking export works on ONE exam for ONE teacher with ACTIVE students only. To give it a try … navigate (1) from the MAIN MENU to Exams. Then select (2) Gradebook from the ACTIONS button:


Click (3) on the button ADVANCED QUESTION STATISTICS. Scroll through the exam page to the bottom and choose (4) your EXPORT format. Find your download and open in your choice of program.


Your download will include all exam questions, pooled or not. In other words,. If there are 15 questions in the pool and only 10 on the exam, your export will track and show results for all 15 questions. Archived students can surely be restored for this purpose as needed. Let’s see where this takes us and you.

piOne final announcement … Saturday is Pi Day.
This year it’s a once in a lifetime celebration. Pi is equal to 3.141592653.
Not only will the month and date line up, but so will the year and time!
Remember this when you look at the clock at 9:26:53 on Saturday, 3/14/15.

Know what your customers want most and what your company does best.
Focus on where those two meet.
~ Kevin Stirtz



Icon Story

Arthur Brisbane

Arthur Brisbane (1864-1936) – photo credit Library of Congress

A picture is worth a thousand words.
~ Unknown

There is no credible certainty regarding the origin of those words above. We do know the overall concept was loosely suggested in the nineteenth century via writings penned like this, “The drawing shows me at one glance what might be spread over ten pages in a book.”
(Ivan S. Turgenev, Fathers and Sons (1862))

Greater clarity and more succinct wording were actually provided in a presentation by newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane to the Syracuse Advertising Men’s Club in 1911. A segment of his editorial counsel in that presentation to this group read as follows …
“Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.”
That’s more than close enough for our purposes.

So, what is the picture we are painting here? Let’s begin with your own words …

I want to recommend making the “Lessons” page more visible to students. The Lessons page is where students actually read and learn the content for their course. Students should spend at least 80% of their time in the “Lessons” page. Yet to access these Lessons, students have to hunt around for them.

And to quote another idea in the same vein …

Any chance we can get the most used icon on the toolbar (students, assessments – like the email icon)?

There were some other email messages and suggestions regarding shortcuts to navigation for both teachers and students. The development team researched to find out where both groups were most likely to travel. It turned out that the primary destinations for teachers were not identical as those for students. Teachers most often visited their workload (ASSESSMENTS) and the STUDENTS roster. Students also visited their own workload (ASSESSMENTS) and the LESSONS. Both groups already had instant access to EMAIL, HOME, and the MAIN MENU. The job for this week was to create ready access to those Educator sections targetged above. It began with a gathering of icons:

icons large

PLEASE NOTE: The icons above are reversed, black vs. white, from those on your actual toolbar. The MAIN MENU icon has not changed. It’s the universally accepted icon for main menus everywhere. This icon is now joined by ASSESSMENTS for both teachers and students. In addition … students will see LESSONS on the toolbar, and teachers will see STUDENTS.

Views were obviously developed for laptop/desktop screens for teachers:


… as well as students:


During our testing with the FLVS QA team, it was suggested that the same icons needed likewise presentation on mobile devices. Why not add them to the toolbar on tablets and phones? After a return trip to the drawing board, these icons were also added to the current mobile toolbar for both teachers (blue) and students (green):


These new toolbars have been tested for a couple of weeks. They are being released to all users at this time. We trust that these navigation enhancements will be well received. Please let us know what you think.

Customer service is not a department; it’s everyone’s job.
~ Anonymous


Taking A Look

Know what your customers want most and what your company does best.
Focus on where those two meet.
~ Kevin Stirtz

binocularsWe’ve received quite a few inquiries about enhancements that have appeared on the pages of this blog over the past couple of years. While it is not complete, the list and links below should get anyone started on an exploration of the roads we’ve traveled together in an effort to better customize your Educator learning management system.

There has been a lot of work over long hours through many lines of code. It has been a journey that we have enjoyed and look forward to enjoying with you even more.

During the time marked by the enhancements below, there were also other major innovations. Working together with the VSA Team, we managed to dramatically bring our integration even closer to real-time. Educator itself sports a whole new look with interactive tables. The drive toward mobile has shaped your new toolbar. We have taken steps toward prescriptive delivery, and we are working to assimilate personalized learning. Dynamic pace charts are just around the corner.

The list of categories below is very loose at best. We have created four basic groups:

  • Communication – facilitating the creation or sharing of information
  • Management – keeping things organized or highlighted
  • Experience – making life generally simpler or neater for users
  • Evaluation – having to do with grading or tracking

Practically everything fits into two or more categories. We just wanted some way to help narrow your/our searches.

Supervisor communications Added school of record
Grade Communications Improved password usage
Submission communication File management improvements
Student Reset controls Segment notifications
Usage Log upgrade Batch Exemption
Date/Time stamp added VSA integration speed
Supervisor Email Automation Updated and sortable tables
Email Autoreply Bulk exemption hot buttons
Supervisor email customization Sorting Enhancements
Email Filtering Increased TA power
Email course filters Expanded table sorting
Feedback Snippets Student Notifications
Percent Complete Essay Flags
Collaboration Finder Suspension Manager functions
Notification upgrades Assessment signatures
Student reminders School of record data
Snippet variables Forcing upgrade
Tweaking diary Exemptions Update
Email addressing Global/Edit Announcements
Forcing Dates
USER EXPERIENCE Advanced student tracking
Email simplification Segment Focus
Workload filtering Student folder express
Sliding navigation Voice Activity counts
New custom filtering Snippet tagging
Honors Notice Expanded TA roles
Course Arranger Student attendance
Create Grading Workflow Usage log export
Email Icons Last assignment warning
Batch file upload
View Student Workload EVALUATION
Assignments Modernization Better facilitate exam resets
Exam Unlock Reset verifications
Multiple downloads Added percentages
Information positioning Last submission
Expanded Downloads Add Exemption documentation
Teacher Notes Advanced Tracking
Student uploads Next Ungraded Essay
Folder Enhancements Resubmitted notations
Teacher Notes Results on the fly
Sort column control Expanded exam data
Responsive design Reset Notifications
Exam formats Exam outcomes
Navigation shortcuts Exam reset rules
Default course entry
Customized notifications
Whiteboard upgrade

Those links above should help refresh your memory or hopefully trigger even newer ways to make Educator better. This brief look over our shoulder has given our team even more energy to move forward. There are some really exciting things on our plates right now. We genuinely look forward to serving them to you. Thanks for dropping by and taking a look.

Happiness … consists in giving, and in serving others.
~ Henry Drummond

Then and Now

In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.
~ Bertrand Russell

Hanger273We pause to sit back from time to time and soak up our surroundings. We recollect the roads traveled and recall how we have arrived where we are. It’s a good time to take a look at how we have done things; it’s a moment to assess how we continue to do things; we can even architect how we might do things better tomorrow.

We have taken time in recent days to ask ourselves many questions. We have managed to hang some of those question marks on a few of our Educator hooks, and we’re here today to share some of those answers. We’re done sitting back, so keep feeding us your ideas. Just take a look below. We take absolutely no credit for generating all these ideas. We only take credit for our listening carefully then and our doing something about it now. Let’s talk a look at … then and now.


Actions: Students Page


I have an idea regarding the new “actions” drop-down menu in a student’s grade report. Can we also have it on the “students” page? Many times I open a grade report just so I can email a student or view the usage log. It would save time to have the menu in both places.

Consider some time has now been saved! You now have a more direct path to where you need to go! It’s all about saving steps:


Sorting: Student Folders


Can you create columns in the student folders, such as the assignment association or the last modified date, so we can sort the files? Many times, students attach picture files of their work that they took on their phone. I always find myself spending a few minutes in a student’s folder, when I’m looking for the work to support their test answers. It would help if I could find the last file they uploaded or the name of the assignment with which they associated the file.

Let’s make all those little labels and pieces of data useful! The metadata has now been programmed into separate columns. Each column can be sorted as you’ve grown to expect and enjoy:


Percentages: Essay Questions


I love how when I fat finger a grade on an assignment, I get the little warning. Can you have the same thing when we fat finger an essay response grade? Like if I accidentally type 34 instead of 4 … I get a warning?

Some ideas just read and lead right into others. This one scores as a double-winner (as shown below):
#1 – Whenever you score an essay, you’ll see the percentage of possible points earned.
#2 – If that “fat finger” credits more points than those allowed, there will be no entry.


 Let us know what you think. Keep those ideas flying. Add one. Comment on another. Help us make a difference. And thanks in advance.

Now and then, someone is able to look at an empty space, conclude it would be a great place to start a revolution, and bravely go forward.
~ Henry Rollins